QuickBooks Revisited

I talk an awful lot about online bookkeeping services. For most of my clients, it's the best way for us to collaborate and for them to have real-time access to their books. There are, however, still some clients who just need the power that a desktop app like QuickBooks has to offer.

I've had to do quite a lot more work in QuickBooks over the past couple months, and I've come away from the experience with some strong but varied opinions. Since I know a lot of you still work with QuickBooks, I thought I'd share some of my thoughts.

The Good.

If you have to enter a lot of data at once, nothing compares to the speed of running a local app. I've got a fast internet connection and I've learned all of the keyboard shortcuts from my favourite cloud-based apps...but they still don't come close to QuickBooks.

If you are a data junkie who wants to track an insane level of details, QuickBooks is far and away the best choice. With the right amount of setup, and a lot of time, you can find out which employee sold the most size-10 widgets on Tuesdays with just a few clicks.

As much as I wish this wasn't true, finding an accountant who doesn't insist on working with QuickBooks is rare. Don't get me wrong, there is a growing list of amazing accountants out there who are embracing apps like Freshbooks, Wave, Xero, and Kashoo. If I get the chance to pick an accountant for my clients I've got a wealth of options. The problem is that I usually don't have this luxury. Most of the time people will already have accountants of their own, and from my experience they will never have heard of any of these online options. As such, using QuickBooks will usually be the safest bet if you want a smooth handoff to the accountant at year end.

The Bad.

I'm willing to take the blame here if you all tell me I'm alone on this one, but I have terrible luck with QuickBooks files. QuickBooks is a database, and databases can become corrupt over time. For some reason once my files get to a certain age or size, they start developing errors. In the past 5 years I've had one cloud service suffer from a data error. In that same time I lost count of how many times I've had to restore a QB backup (and re-enter days of data) because it found errors in the file.

When was the last time Freshbooks wouldn't work because the version you were using was no longer supported? Never? That's what I thought. Thankfully, as a ProAdvisor, I get a fresh copy of the latest version of QuickBooks every year. In case you didn't know, that doesn't matter if your client isn't using the same version. If my client runs QB 2012 and I open it with QB 2014, it will demand that I upgrade the file to 2014. That means that once I hand it back to my client, they will need to upgrade to 2014 before they can open their file again. Sure, I've got old versions of QB install disks going back to 2005 or so, but that's really tedious. Furthermore, payroll won't work on older versions. The last time I checked the calendar, it's 2014. My copy of QB 2013 won't run payroll updates anymore because it's a year old. I'm still paying a subscription every month, so it's not like I'm trying to freeload here. I just need to run payroll for my client who happens to run (gasp!) 1 year old software. Sorry...no can do.

The Frustrating.

Sorry...couldn't think of an "ugly" here. Despite all the great things that are happening in this space, I find it all very frustrating. I wish there was one company making the one app to rule them all. Or, I'd even settle for one company making one great client-facing app and one great accountant-facing app. Oh, and these two would actually sync up too. QB has desktop and online versions, but I can't open the same file on both versions.

For clients, or just business owners with moderate needs, there are some truly amazing solutions out there. What I desperately want to see is an equally amazing solution for accountants that works with these client-facing apps without muddying up the clean interface my clients love. Maybe I'm asking for too much, but I'm going to keep asking. If anyone out there has one of those chairs from The Matrix so I could just plug in and learn app development in a couple hours...I'd gladly write my own.

How many of you still use desktop software? Are you happy with it? If you could get your own custom software that fit all your needs, what would it look like?

FreshBooks, Guest Posts, and Email Newsletters

If you haven't been following them, the folks at FreshBooks have been busy.

There aren't a lot of things I would change about FreshBooks. No, it's not a full-featured accounting package like QuickBooks, but it's not meant to be, and it would ruin it's charm by going down the path of feature-creep.

One of the things I always wanted was a simple way to keep track of all my clients who were using FreshBooks. I have quite a few clients who use FreshBooks for creating invoices and tracking their time and expenses. In order to pull down the reports I need, I have to login to each client's account one-by-one. At tax time, this gets to be a real pain. Thankfully, FreshBooks has come to my rescue.

On August 19th FreshBooks created Accountant Center, which is a portal to connect me to all my clients in one central location. Once my clients add me as their bookkeeper/accountant, I can pull the reports I need without having to log into their account.

For me, this allows me to quickly pull reports from all my clients from the same central location, without having to jump to multiple sites and manage multiple logins.

For the client, this allows them to give me access to reports without using up a staff account, giving me their login information or access to the rest of their records.

For more information on how this you can read the blog post on their site.

Guest Post

While on the subject of FreshBooks and blog posts...yours truly recently had a guest post published on their blog. If you'd like to give it a read, you can check it out at the link below.

6 ways your accountant can help you achieve your business goals

Email Newsletter

Finally, there is a new way to keep up to date with all things That Bookkeeper. Some of you may get this by email through the FeedBurner link. I have decided to move over to MailChimp. Well...to be honest, I signed up for it a LONG time ago, and am now finally getting around to making the switch. Here in Canada there were some changes made to the spam laws, and I would need to have everyone re-subscribe to the email feed anyway, so I thought this was as good a time as any to make the move.

Obviously, in order to get this to those of you who only read these posts via email, I had to send this last one out through the old link. However, going forward, if you would like to receive these posts fresh off the presses and delivered straight to your inbox, please follow the link below to subscribe. I will be closing down the email portion of the FeedBurner feed right away so anyone who subscribes won't end up getting 2 emails (fingers crossed I don't mess this up).

For those of you who aren't currently subscribed, please sign up. I know my writing schedule is erratic at best, so this ensures you're always getting the latest post without having to check back here every day. For now, you'll just have the latest blog posts sent whenever I post them on the site. Eventually I'd like to also have a (very) occasional bit of exclusive content for those on the list. The main thing is that I won't be flooding your inbox with useless junk you don't need, and (of course) you can unsubscribe at any time.

The other nice thing about getting these in your inbox is that you can easily reply to me directly if you have a question or comment about the post. I get some great feedback from my readers this way. It's so nice getting to hear directly from all of you who read these words. Anyway, here's the link to subscribe. There will also be a link on the right column of the site.

That Bookkeeper - Email Newsletter

Office Nostalgia Revisited


I wrote a while ago about how much I missed working with a physical stack of paper. Back in the dead tree days, it was so much easier to know where you stood in your workday. If, by 3:00PM, there was still more paper on the left side of my desk than the right (I'm a lefty), I knew I was in for a long day.

Today I miss my old calculator. You know the one. The old, boxy tape calculators that were the staple of every proper desk. Loud enough to wake the neighbours and heavy enough to take out a burglar. Do an image search for bookkeeping and it'll be on the first page.

The sound was equal parts mid-90's IBM keyboard and dot-matrix printer. Show this monstrosity to anyone born after 1989 and you'll be hard pressed to convince them of its merits. I, however, miss these dearly. Just like the big stack of receipts casting shadows on my desk, these old calculators made it feel like you were getting real work done. If you spent a full morning crunching numbers, you would be left with a mile-long coil of paper, a cramped up hand, and a light ringing in your ears.

Unfortunately, there is no way I can justify using one today. Instead of cranking away on a loud keyboard to add up a row of totals, I just write a =SUM() string and hit enter.

Before you email me...yes, I know there are "tape calculator" apps. No, they aren't the same thing.

Here's my ideal scenario. I want a heavy tape calculator. No need to MacBook Air it for me. Make it thick beige plastic with full size buttons. Now add a USB connection and let it work both ways. I want it to work as a laptop numpad AND let it print directly to a role of paper too. Sure, there can be a switch to turn that off, but I want the option to have my totals go directly into Excel and still have that hard copy when I'm done.

Please tell me someone has already done this. Yeah, I could Google it, but it's late and I'm too tired to bother. I'm sure there's a 27-step Instructables article on how to make your own. I can toss it into Evernote with the 436 other projects I swear I'll get around to someday. Until then, I'll just sit here reminiscing about the "good old days".